When the stats page shows that a visitor has been referred to our little blog from some social network which we frequent, it is gratifying but not surprising. It is astounding, however, to find that people searching for ‘boardman feeder’ have been directed to our blog. We are hardly the authoritative web source of information on these things and do not show up in the first few pages of Google results. Are there some very persistent and thorough searchers out there? No, the mystery was finally solved when we performed an image search where our little blog showed up near the top of the results.
Well, with Google hits comes Google responsibility. Since we have recently fiddled with our feeder follower, we here provide an update with more pictures and more information. The feeder itself is a holder for an inverted jar (usually a quart) of syrup (equal parts sugar and water) with small holes drilled in its lid . The holder is shaped to fit into the standard entrance slot of a Langstroth hive leaving the jar outside. An opening in the part that enters the hive allows bees to enter to get under the jar and help themselves to syrup. With a little skill in making large holes in wood one can make one’s own but an inexpensive plastic version of such a feeder is readily obtainable from any supplier of beekeeping equipment, with or without the jar and perforated lid. If you should make your own or even just prepare a jar lid, make sure to drill holes from the outside of the lid. The bees may otherwise scratch themselves on the jagged ends where the drill bit broke through to make the holes.
The advantage of a Boardman feeder, if your hive has a suitable entrance slot, is that you need not open the hive to install it or to swap full syrup jars for empty. This is convenient for a beek with many hives to feed. Its main disadvantage, common to entrance feeders, is that it can encourage robbing by hives other than the one being fed. You will find many a harsh word written about these feeders because of this. A lesser complaint is that some beeks find a quart to be an inconveniently small volume of syrup, requiring frequent refills.
In our case, horizontal hive with round entrances, we modified our follower board with a slot to accept the Boardman feeder. The follower divides the hive into two chambers: one occupied by the bees and the other in which the syrup jar sits. Only the bee chamber has entrances to the outside world. This makes it an internal feeder thus avoiding the robbing problem. It also brings the disadvantage of requiring removal of the roof to access the jar but one need not open the bee chamber to disturb the colony.
Since the screened bottom of our hive is not rigid enough to keep the feeder and follower from tipping we did not just cut a rectangular slot in the bottom of the board. Rather you can see a sort of ziggurat cut in the photo showing the board, the plastic feeder, and a scrap of wood to fit the lower, wider part of the opening. After assembly the plastic feeder fits snugly into the upper part of the cut with the wood scrap fitting into the lower part of the cut and extending on either side of the board. The assembly is held together by a pair of screws through the scrap and into the follower.
Why did we not just make a simple rectangular opening and attach a scrap of wood that extended along the entire bottom of the follower? Only because no suitable scrap of wood was handy and we were in a hurry, the package of bees having just arrived. Such a design is preferable, particularly since ours tipped backwards a bit despite the support of the attached platform. That moved us to our first recent modification, attaching a strip of wood to the rear of the platform that extends the width of the hive and so has its ends resting on the bottom ledge rather than just on the screen. No more tipping at all.
The second modification resulted from our noticing that the follower had cupped a bit. The one side had been propolyzed by the bees while the feeder side remained unfinished. The bare side absorbed humidity more easily and swelled causing the cupping. It was likely a matter of no consequence but we addressed it anyway. With wood screws through the bottom we fixed a pair of upright 2×2 inch scraps to the platform where it touched the follower. Next we used clamps to force the follower flat against the uprights and screwed through the front to fix the follower to the tops of the uprights. Finally we removed the clamps and rejoiced that things held together.